artificially landscaped and terraced, and surrounded by a grove of trees partially obscuring the buildings from view.
One of the objections to the construction of the hospital is that it would introduce into a quiet residential region noises not now existing. It must be assumed, however, that a dormitory or a garage would likewise bring loud sounds in its wake. On the other hand, modern hospitals endeavor to establish 'quiet zones' for the welfare of the patients.
It is also urged that there would be a dangerous increase of traffic to a point of saturation. The evidence tends to show that traffic on Nebraska Avenue is heavy during rush hours. At other times the traffic is comparatively light. Judging by the number of vehicles entering and leaving the Georgetown Hospital, which is of a comparable size, and which is also located in a residential area, the added traffic burden would amount to about six or seven percent. A part of this increase, however, would be created during periods other than rush hours. It is inconceivable that this additional amount of traffic cannot be absorbed without difficulty especially with proper use of police officers and the installation of control signals, if necessary or desirable. The construction of new buildings, which is continually going on in that area, as well as elsewhere, necessarily leads to some increase of traffic. Moreover, many of the objections on this score were based on a misunderstanding, as some of the property owners apparently thought that entrances to the hospital site would be cut through from University Avenue, which is now a very quiet and almost deserted thoroughfare, somewhat like a country road. It appears, however, that the hospital plans call only for an access road from Rockwood Parkway, near its junction with Nebraska Avenue, leaving University Avenue undisturbed. The University and hospital authorities are willing to enter into a covenant running with the land for the benefit of owners of adjacent property, not to cut any other entrance to the hospital tract for a period of twenty years. Moreover, it is proposed to create adequate parking spaces on the hospital grounds, in order that it may not be necessary for members of the staff, employees, and visitors, to park their cars in any of the surrounding streets.
The chief objection, however, is that the proposed hospital would impair property values. Testimony to that effect was given by real estate experts, who even calculated the exact amount of impairment as reaching from thirty-five to fifty percent and computed it concretely in dollars and cents. Expert testimony as to values of real property is admissible, and frequently is entitled to considerable weight, especially if it is based on a consideration of actual sales of property in the vicinity. In this case, however, the testimony did not relate to present values, but constituted a prophesy of what the values would be in case a specified contingency occurred in the future. Each of the expert witnesses frankly admitted that his testimony was merely an opinion or a prognostication, and that he had no facts by which to substantiate it. Such alarming forecasts evolved from the inner consciousness of the witnesses are worthy of but scant consideration.
The only evidence as to real estate values based on actual facts was as follows. The uncontradicted testimony showed that when the Georgetown University Hospital was moved into a residential area several years ago, the values of adjoining and nearby residential property were not affected, in spite of the fact that a community situated diagonally across the street from the Hospital and known as Burlieth was composed of single family dwellings. The uncontroverted testimony further showed that when a hospital known as the Suburban Hospital was erected a few years ago in a nearby suburb in Maryland, composed of single family detached dwellings, property values were not decreased. No other factual evidence was introduced in respect to the effect on property values of the construction of any other hospital than those named, either in this city or elsewhere.
It is reasonable to assume that if there existed actual instances of impairment of residential property values as a result of the construction of a hospital, evidence to that effect would have been adduced.
The only attempt to reconcile these facts with the dire predictions, was made by one of the real estate experts who testified that row houses, such as are found in Burlieth, are not diminished in value by the building of a hospital nearby, but that values of expensive detached homes would be adversely affected, because people who own residences of the latter type want more privacy. The argument, based on sheer speculation and pure conjecture, that the value of costly homes is more likely to decline as the result of the construction of a hospital in their vicinity than is the case with less expensive residences, is not an appealing one and does not seem to justify the action taken by the Commission or vindicate the constitutionality of its decision. It bears no reasonable relation to the public safety, health, morals, or the general welfare.
The court finds on the basis of the foregoing discussion that the zoning order involved in the case at bar bears no reasonable relation to the public safety, health, or morals, or the general welfare. It further finds that the order deprives the American University of the right to use its property in a manner possessed by it since the acquisition of the land and also uninterruptedly since 1920, when zoning was introduced in the District of Columbia. It further finds that in any event no sufficient basis has been shown for re-zoning the entire campus tract. The conclusion of law necessarily follows that the order of the Zoning Commission constitutes a taking of property of the American University without due process of law, in violation of the Fifth Amendment, and is hence unconstitutional and void. Judgment for the plaintiffs will be rendered accordingly.
In accordance with Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 28 U.S.C.A., the summary of the facts and the law contained in this opinion will constitute the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the court. Counsel will submit a proposed judgment.
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